Morris walked up the ancient stone steps, wondering if he could pull it off. Roy Robles was perhaps the greatest secret agent that ever lived, but all that action and danger had come at a cost. Some said he was simply tired. Most thought the years of continuous stress finally broke the man. Whatever the reason, the most dangerous man in the world had spent the last ten years in this Lithuanian monastery living a simple, pious life. Entrusted with the world’s most secret artifacts, he’d become known as The Archivist.
Clouds hung above the 600-year old building like a steely blanket when Morris grasped the gargoyle knocker. He pounded on the door and it opened nearly instantly. The monks there were nothing if not vigilant. A young monk in traditional brown robes led Morris through the stark interior without a word. It was cold inside even though Morris could see fires burning in several hearths. Visually, the plain stone hallways and staircases lacked life, but a cheery odor of baking bread and freshly plucked vegetables added a hominess to it.
Morris tried to imagine why this life of the pious, of making everything from scratch, could attract a man like Robles. The spy had enjoyed all the finest of Europe: the cars, the food, the women. Why throw it away? The young monk ushered Morris into the warmest chamber he’d seen yet. A fire burned in a massive hearth. Morning light streamed from the window like a sign from God.
On a carpet stood a simple pedestal. A figure in heavy and hooded brown robes stood before it, his hand touching an ancient book upon the pedestal. Morris knew that hand at once. It was large and scarred from many battles. A hand that could kill 116 ways. “You seek The Archivist and the Tonic.” he said.
As the young monk left the room, Morris said, “Seriously? You’re really going to play this role out?”
Robles raised his hand to the light from the window. “It is the role God has given me.”
“Oh c’mon. It’s me, Morris Tunney! You trained me in St. Petersburg. Have you forgotten the food we had in Istanbul? The adventure in Caracas?”
Robles turned his head slowly. The lines of his face were deeper. His hair going grey. “A past that ultimately led to God.”
Morris rolled his eyes. “You seriously drank the punch haven’t you? You didn’t need to play monk, just guard the artifacts.”
Robles pointed to the colorful book before him. “Do you know what this is? It is a Book of Hours. It guides the pious in their prayers. It is the only tonic that refreshes my soul.” He pointed to a colorful page. “This miniature was created by The Rustic Painter, his hand guided by God. This is my life now. That life you speak of is but a bitter memory.”
It was clear to Morris that Robles hadn’t lost his nerve. He’d lost his mind. He rolled his eyes. “Whatever. Anyway, I’m here for the Tonic.”
Robles waved his hand to a table. A vial of purplish liquid rested upon it. “The Tonic of Alexander. Said to cure all mental illness.”
“We’ll need it,” said Robles snatching the vial. “Putin had clearly lost his mind. After grabbing Crimea and much of the Ukraine, he’s massing troops on the borders with Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania. NATO troops are landing to defend them. There’s going to be war in the Baltics and it’s going to be nasty. This Tonic may stop the war before it starts.”
“If it is the will of God.”
One more chance to bring him back.
Morris said, “We could use your help, you know. We need to infiltrate Putin’s Palace in Praskoveevka.”
“My place is here.”
Morris held out a bottle of Previet Vodka, Robles’ favorite. ” I brought along a case of Vodka.”
“I hope you enjoy it.”
“Marika Morovka will be there. She’s still stunning, and she misses you.”
“I hope she is safe.”
“It’s going to be dangerous.”
“Dangerous?” Robles suddenly shrugged of his robes, revealing a black tactical suit beneath. Throwing knives and grenades glimmered. “Why didn’t you say so?” He snatched the bottle of vodka from Morris and drank deep. “Gawd, I missed that!”
“Seriously? After all that malarkey?” complained Morris.
“I was waiting for you to ask nicely.” He grabbed Morris’ arm. “I’m bored to death. The Tonic I need is action, and this mission fits the bill!”
Putin’s Palace: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Putin%27s_Palace
Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tr%C3%A8s_Riches_Heures_du_Duc_de_Berry#Attribution_of_the_calendar_miniatures
Book of Hours: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_hours
This week at the Grammar Ghoul Press, the word prompt is: Tonic. Art by Paul Limbourg, or the “Rustic painter” is the media prompt. Look here for more stories based upon the prompts! http://www.grammarghoulpress.com/gg-writing-challenge-11-open/